How the ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ hair and makeup navigated the challenge of shooting underwater [Exclusive Video Interview]

When “Black Panther” hair department head Camille Friend and makeup department head Joel Harlow reunited to work on the film’s blockbuster sequel, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” the first challenge they had to meet was literally all wet. Because the new film introduces Talokan to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the undersea kingdom ruled by Namor (Tenoch Huerta Mejia), Friend and Harlow had to figure out how to make sure their hair and makeup work could withstand the underwater conditions – a complication some productions no doubt would’ve just worked around.

“A lot of films, when you end up shooting underwater stuff, it’s dry for wet,” Harlow tells Gold Derby in an exclusive video interview. “This wasn’t. This was wet for wet. And even when the actors are out of the water, they’re still wet – you don’t come out of the water and you’re suddenly dry. Plus, shooting in Atlanta, over the summer – it’s hot and humid anyway. So yeah, it was a challenge.”

Asked if the process proved torturous for her work on the cast’s hair, Friend says it did. “But the one thing you have to respect is the element of water. It’s real. It’s heavy, it moves and it’s alive,” she adds. “You have to respect it.”

Set after the events of 2018’s “Black Panther” – as well as 2019’s “Avengers: Endgame” – “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” expands the scope and scale of the original film all while the franchise’s familiar characters are grappling with the death of Wakandan king T’Challa, an experience that mirrored the mourning period for the cast after the death of Chadwick Boseman. For Friend, processing that loss was reflected in the hairstyles – particularly for Shuri (Letitia Wright), who eventually picks up the mantel of Black Panther, and Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett), who tries to hold Wakanda together after the death of her son.

“The thing we really talked about at the beginning with [director] Ryan [Coogler] was in West African culture when there’s been a death and when you’re in mourning, you will cut your hair off,” Friend says. “So the idea behind it was what happens if Shuri had Ramonda cut their hair off? How will we see them after that whole process happened? So that’s where we landed on the look for both the ladies.”

She adds, “With Shuri, you’re seeing a woman who was coming of age. She’s been thrust into a position that she didn’t know what she was getting into. She has to become a leader very much overnight. Where in the first movie, she was like the younger sister. She was joking around; here, we saw somebody who as a woman has really matured and stepped into her role.”

The “Wakanda Forever” production was massive, Friend and Harlow say – and the work that went into creating the hair and makeup was not only complex to apply but also took hours to clean up at the end of the day’s shooting.

“It’s a whole big machine that people don’t see in the background [to make these movies],” Friend says. “But one thing I love is when we saw them underwater in the finished film, it was absolutely magical. And it took my breath away to see it because we don’t ever get to see it like what you actually see in the movie.”

“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is out now.

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